Monday, 21 December 2015

Looking ahead: Easton Walled Gardens and Little Ponton Hall

There’s nothing more cheerful than having a garden visit to look forward to- especially when there’s cake involved.
Photo by Fred Cholmeley

Our next trip out will be to two of my favourites - Little Ponton Hall, and Easton Walled Gardens.

Both are stunning in winter, with drifts of naturalised snowdrops and carpets of golden aconites.
Little Ponton Hall (photo by Gillian Rudd)

The gardens are virtually next door to each other, just off the A1 near Grantham in Lincolnshire.  

The River Witham winds its way through both gardens. For me, it’s an annual treat to walk along the footpaths and look up at the sheets of snowdrops all along the steep- sloping banks.

Little Ponton Hall is the 18th century home of Mrs. Rosemary McCorquodale. A favourite feature of the garden is a 200 year old cedar tree alongside the house on the main lawn.   In the walled vegetable garden there’s a glorious Victorian greenhouse full of exotic plants, and a listed dovecote. The most recent project is the development of a herb garden.

Easton Walled Gardens have been rescued from ruin over the past 15 years by Lady Ursula Cholmeley and her family. 
 Photo by Fred Cholmeley

There are some new plantings I’m looking forward to. Crocuses have been planted in groups of 100 in the grass- including C. Romance, Remembrance and white Joan of Arc and snow bunting.

I am hoping we will see early flowering narcissi, chionodoxa, hyacinths and hellebores as well as some of the winter flowering prunus trees.   And there are some rare and unusual forms of snowdrops in the alpine bed, including Wendy’s Gold, Mighty Atom, Fred’s Giant. In the Secret Garden there’s Galanthus Lady Elphinstone and some of the Greatorex doubles including G Jacquenetta.
And a favourite place for me- after all that walking- is the cosy little cafe, selling tea and homemade cake.  I can highly recommend the coffee and walnut!
Photo by Fred Cholmeley

For more details- see the website

Saturday 13th February: Coach Trip to Easton Walled Gardens and Little Ponton Hall, with lunch at The Cholmeley Arms. 

writer:  Karen Gimson

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Celebrity Lecture tickets now on sale

James Alexander Sinclair is our guest lecturer this year and he has now given us more information on his talk, which he calls:  “A Life in Five Gardens”
This is what he has to say about it:

“I was never a childhood prodigy; one of those at the sound of whose toddling footsteps roses would preen and daisies turn their heads in expectant glee.  I stumbled upon gardening by accident and there is seldom a day that passes when I am not thankful for that accident.  I spend my life flitting around the countryside designing gardens for some very lovely people.  My talk will tell the stories behind five of my favourite gardens”. 

James is one of the foremost garden designers in the UK.  He has designed gardens from Cornwall to the Western Isles and from London to Moscow.  He is also an award-winning writer, a compelling speaker, a frequent broadcaster – most recently in the BBC2 series “The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge” and he is also an elected member of the Council of the Royal Horticultural Society. 

We are really pleased to have James coming to talk to us about his life in gardening.  It is sure to be entertaining, informative and passionate. 

All the profits from this lecture will go to our Education Programme.  This enables us to give small grants to schools to encourage children to have an interest in gardens.  We arrange and pay for groups of children to visit a walled kitchen garden which has been set up as an “outdoor classroom”, so that they can learn where their food comes from.  We award an annual bursary to a student at a local horticultural college who has made the most progress on their course.  We make grants to schools towards the cost of creating school gardens.

We could not do any of this without the profits that we make from our Celebrity Lecture, so, do come and bring your friends:

Date:  Wednesday 16th September
Venue: Ken Edwards Lecture Theatre 1, Leicester Univery, University Road.
Cost:  £15 (includes a glass of wine or soft drink)

For more information on how to book go to our website:

written by Sue Blaxland

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Look out for our Celebrity Lecturer James Alexander Sinclair on BBCTV all this week

James- who’s hosting our annual lecture on September 16th- is a presenter and judge on the BBC2 programme called The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge.
James says:” The programme is intended to highlight new and exciting talent. The winner will be creating a main avenue garden for the Chelsea Flower Show.”
Contestants are being mentored by our 2014 Celebrity Lecturer, Joe Swift.
The competition is being filmed at RHS Harlow Carr (where the lrgt visited last summer) and RHS Wisley. To find out more visit  

It must be James’ year for competitions. He is also one of the panel of judges for a new annual photography competition just launched at Easton Walled Gardens.
We have many talented and keen photographers in the lrgt. I know this to be true because you showcase your skills at our annual Friends Evening (this year on November 19th)  It’s actually my favourite event of the year, when I get the chance to see your photos of glorious gardens  you’ve visited in the uk- and further afield.
It would be great to see some lrgt photos entered in the Easton competition- which has a first prize of £500. The theme of the competition is The Essence of Summer- and winners and finalists will have their work displayed in an exhibition at Easton.
For more information –  


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Evenley Wood Garden

Our first visit this year, on 25 March, was to Evenley Wood Garden in Northamptonshire. This replaced the usual snowdrop visit in February. This lovely 60 acre private woodland was bought from the Evenley Hall Eatate, 30 years ago, by Timothy Whiteley. He had discovered that one third of the area is acid soil in mainly alkaline terrain. This would give him the opportunity to grow the rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias that he loved and underplant with drifts of bulbs.
The initial impact of the wood was of lightness and airyness. The tree trunks stretched upward, tall and straight like telegraph poles, and the sun slanted through, casting long shadows. There was no dark undergrowth so it had a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The spaciousness was enhanced by wide rides and paths, cutting through the trees. The rising ground was gentle, so there was no sense of making an effort to climb up the hillside.
It was lovely to see shrubs like pieris growing to their natural size, rather than the constrained, somewhat prissy versions, that you often see growing in suburban gardens.
The "wow factor" at this time of the year was the stream of intense blue scillas meandering through the woodland. There were clumps and swathes of narcissus; I was particularly taken with Narcissus "February Gold" and "February Silver". My latest "must have" plant is Narcissus cyclamineus which is low-growing with a striking long flower tube and swept-back petals. The scale and proportion of the planting groups was generous and totally in keeping with their surroundings.
Other bulbs in flower were cyclamen and giant pink chinodoxa and there were also clumps of hellebores and primroses.
Mr. Whiteley likes to be around to welcome groups but, unfortunately, had a hospital appointment. However, we were made very welcome and were shown round in two groups. The group that I was in was led by a delightful and knowledgeable young woman from the Czech Republic.
I would love to see this woodland garden at a different time of the year - earlier for snowdrops or later for bluebells. And, in summer, with climbing climbing roses, such as "Paul's Himalayan Musk" scrambling through the trees. We were told that there were 120 different varieties of rose growing in the woods, with the latest project to plant a glade with many more. It will be a wonderful sight.
Our day was, as usual, topped and tailed by an excellent lunch - this time at the "Red Lion" at Evenley and with tea and home-made cake, eaten on the fringes of the wood.

Sue Blaxland

Sunday, 22 March 2015

An evening with Timothy Walker

We have a varied and stimulating events schedule this year in the Leicestershire and Rutland Gardens Trust.  We run trips to various gardens and we also have some very interesting lectures.  The March lecture was given by Timothy Walker who has recently retired from being the Horti Praefectus of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum.  We quite often have linked lectures and visits and we are running a coach trip to the gardens in July this year (click on the Forthcoming Events tab at the top of the page for more information).

The talk was given as a personal view of the history of the gardens.  It was full of fascinating information such as Timothy was the sixteenth Horti Praefectus, the first was Jacob Bobart the Elder in 1641 just before the country descended into Civil War in 1642.  One of Bobart's achievements was to catalogue all the plants in the garden which means that we know that only one of those plants still lives in the garden, a large yew tree.
The garden was set up originally to provide educational opportunities and research on medicinal plants, it was founded by a £5000 donation from Henry Danvers, the first Earl of Derby, who appears to have been an interesting character.

We were told that the 'mission statement' of the gardens is carved in stone over the main gate "To promote learning and glorify the work of God", no matter what your position on religion may be, to promote learning is a fine objective and to glorify plants and therefore all the wildlife and eco-systems that they create makes it a statement that I think many can buy into.

The talk took us through the various Horti Praefectus and professors that have influenced the garden as it was developed through the centuries.  There were lots of amusing anecdotes all clearly underpinned with a clear deep abiding love of botany/horticulture and considerable knowledge.
As usual when I go to such events I ended up with a plant on my 'look this up you might one to get one' list: Euphorbia styigiana.  The gardens hold the national collection of euphorbias and this plant had been in danger of being lost in the wild.  Its future is now secure in cultivation due to work carried out by the gardens which includes finding that the seeds are very attractive to wrens who eat them in preference to other seeds given half a chance.  

We had a very entertaining and informative evening, which ended as usual with tea and cake.

Alison Levey

Monday, 23 February 2015


Welcome to the official blog of the Leicestershire and Rutland Gardens Trust.  We will be writing about our events, our garden visits and things that interest us.

We run a varied series of events throughout the year and a link to the forthcoming events page on the main site can be found at the top of this page, but whilst I have your attention I thought I would plug our Celebrity Lecture which this year will be given by James Alexander Sinclair.
James will be following in the footsteps of Joe Swift, Cleve West and Chris Beardshaw.  This is a key event for the Trust as all the profits go towards our 'Schools into Gardening' scheme.

More information can be found on our main website including how to book tickets, but the main details are:

Time: 7.30pm
Date: Wednesday 16th September 2015
Venue: Leicester University

Tickets:  Members £12.50 Non-members £15.00 (includes a soft drink/glass of wine).